PACEBREAKER

Each time my mother wraps an eggroll,
another piece of a new story shatters. Glass
noodles, pork, carrots, cabbage, all clothed in fleshy
paper—a beige soft as old book pages. Masterchef go
cooking school, but Ma no need! she often boasts.

An aspiring singer-zitherist in a past
life, my mother now performs
other forms of art. There’s the cooking on the side,
then her main job: assembly line work. Ma inspects
constituent microscopic pieces that when sculpted
into a pacemaker will keep a stranger’s heart pumping.

Eight hours later, my mother returns
home and starts to create. Floating in the steel
stockpot of vegetable oil, the eggrolls become
gold with tender magic, as of a silk dress.
Two dollars for each piece
of my mother. The factory, the eggroll-crafting—
both have bedeviled her hands with a human
-made darkness: carpal tunnel syndrome.

Later, after she’s finished
all her other art—laundry, dishes, orchid-watering,
husband-and-child-handling—long after these,
in the violet night, Ma reposes on the bed,
blanketless, and within five minutes she is snoring—
her belly button rising and
returning, like the climax of a song.

Now and then, Ma asks me to lie
down, sleep next to her: Ma can’t see you
a lot. You always have no time. Please? But I decline:
Your snoring is loud. I mean it jokingly, of course.
But words can pierce at odd angles. Loud:
implicitly annoying. The snores, and the snorer.
Language is layered
like busyness, of which there are two types,
mine and Ma’s.

Needless to say, I’m an ignorant son—
that is, just a son. Now I lie in my own bed,
wrapped in my own blanket, beneath the stars
and beside them, a million sleeping mothers
from home. I lie here, as someone who’s worth
each beautifully cracking wrist, and wonder:
Hasn’t she been dreaming all this time? 
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